Anne Boleyn


Anne Boleyn,

2nd wife of King Henry VIII



ca. 1500, the daughter of Thomas Boleyn and Elizabeth Howard, at Norfolk


25 January 1533, Henry VIII, secretly at Whitehall Palace


1 June 1533 at Westminster Abbey, London


19 May 1536 at the Tower of London (executed)


St. Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London

s a teenager, Anne learned courtly skills and fluent French at the courts of Austria and France. Returning to England in 1521, she caught Henry VIII’s eye some five years later. Not a conventional beauty, Anne was cultured, chic, charming, flirtatious, volatile, sophisticated, intelligent, ambitious and absolutely entrancing.

After her refusal to become his mistress, an intrigued Henry began to see her not only as his heart’s desire, but also as a means of achieving a male heir. By 1527, he had offered marriage. Shedding Queen Katherine of Aragon, however, required Henry to shake England’s church to its foundation. Anne, conversant with “modern” religious views, encouraged Henry, lending him reformist books with the relevant passages marked.

Years of heated courtship ensued while Henry sought his divorce. Finally, Anne’s pregnancy spurred him to declare England’s church free of papal authority and capable, on its own, of granting his divorce. Anne’s child was born in wedlock – but a daughter, Elizabeth, not the anticipated son. Two miscarriages followed. Henry’s infatuation began to fade.

Anne was not a popular queen. She was seen as responsible for the breakdown of Henry’s marriage to the much-loved Katherine as well as for his upheaval of the church and the accompanying dissolution of the monasteries. She alienated Henry’s ministers, and then became a target for a powerful conservative faction. All worked together to destroy Henry’s trust in her. In 1536, they succeeded.

Anne was arrested and accused of multiple instances of adultery with multiple partners (charges that were clearly false). Nevertheless, five of her supposed lovers (including her brother, George) were executed. Anne was beheaded, only seventeen days after her arrest. A special executioner, skilled with the sword, was brought in from Calais as Henry’s parting gift. Eleven days after Anne’s death, Henry married once again.

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